The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival is returning with over 140 events from 19 to 29 March. Boasting an impressive line-up of local and international chefs, the festival is more accessible and varied than ever.
Here are some of the events that you don’t want to miss this year.
Free exhibit and talks
“This is a festival for everyone,” says creative director Pat Nourse. “We’ve made as much of the festival free as we can this year.”
Among the free offering is the Take the Cake exhibit dedicated to the beloved Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book. It will pay tribute the train, castle and doll cakes that have lit up the eyes of so many.
Over two weekends, chefs and personalities like Ben Shewry, Alison Roman, Rishi Naleendra, Bruce Pascoe and Helen Goh will take part in talks and demonstrations at the Queen Victoria Market, which is the new festival’s headquarters.
“It’s a market like no other in Australia. It gets 10 million visitors a year and it’s been there coming up on 150 years in operation. It’s a living market and it’s the state['s] most-visited tourist destination, but it’s still a place where the people of Melbourne go for their carrots and onions… and their doughnuts!” says Nourse.
Sichuan Snack Fair and The Big Spaghetti
There's no ticket necessary for these two events, where you can simply rock up.
The Sichuan Snack Fair will feature Fuchsia Dunlop and local chefs who will celebrate the bold and spicy cuisine of the southwestern Chinese province. In addition to Dunlop’s famous mapo tofu, you can expect cold noodles by Dainty Sichuan, mala beef tenderloin by Sun Kitchen and Chongqing chicken ribs by Belle’s Hot Chicken, all available to buy from food stalls on 22 March.
The following weekend, the same concept will be in force for The Big Spaghetti. Melbourne and Sydney restaurants, including the likes of Trattoria Emilia and Cafe Paci, will be serving around 20 different pasta dishes.
Fire and Spice: An Indonesian Feast
Makan’s Gracia and Tasia Seger are teaming up with Papuan chef Charles Toto and Sumatran-born chef Rahung Nasution for a dinner that will take you on a culinary of Indonesia.
“We wanted to cover parts of Indonesia that aren’t talked about much here,” says Gracia Seger.
Expect pork slow-cooked in a makeshift stone oven, aromatic chicken with pandan leaves and a braised beef recipe from Seger’s grandma.
The Mixed Grill
Top chefs from all over the world are getting together for a huge Middle Eastern barbecue on 21 March. “A cutlery-optional dinner for 300 people at the Queen Vic Market is going to be something very special,” predicts Nourse.
On the menu: Yemenite beef ribs, bone marrow, a massive dessert table and more.
Barrio Rising Stars Dinner and Cakes and Chikahan
If you missed out on the now sold-out Barrio Laneway Fiesta, fear not. The Entree.Pinays are behind two more Filipino events. Chefs JP Anglo and Ross Magnaye will join forces for two dinners at Rice Paper Sister on 25 and 26 March.
For sweet tooths, Cakes and Chikahan is a degustation and conversation over nine Filipino desserts. It will take you through Indigenous, colonial and post-colonial sweets.
“This kind of Filipino dessert tasting has never been offered at the festival or other events,” says Grace Guinto, co-founder of The Entree.Pinays.
Together with some of Australia’s best chefs, the festival has raised almost $200 000 for the Victorian bushfire appeal.
And the team is not done doing its part. “During the festival, we’ll be using as much [with] Gippsland produce, and produce from other areas affected by the fires, as we can,” says Nourse.
The discussion series with Ben Shewry will also tackle questions raised by the fires. The regional portion of the festival, which is now held separately in October, will aim to drive people to areas that were affected by the fires.
The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival is happening across town from 19 to 29 March. You can find out more about events and book tickets here.
Literally meaning “pock-marked old lady tofu” this dish has to have one of the least complimentary names in all of the Chinese cuisine. Using Chengdu’s famous Pixian chilli bean paste, this has become a classic of Sichuan cookery. It’s very easy to make, too. Destination Flavour China